Frozen 2 sees the magic of the original stuffed into a forced storyline, with songs that lack lasting power.
A sequel to Frozen seemed inevitable after it absolutely obliterated the box office back in 2013. However, if the original was the hopeful pre-teen age of this animated franchise, Frozen 2 is definitely its emo phase. Set three years on from the events of the first film, the Frozen five (Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven) are living peacefully in the picturesque kingdom of Arendelle, before mysterious noises see them leave almost immediately to follow Elsa’s latest journey of self-discovery. This time, they’re all going together. It would be bold, and frankly untrue, to say this film exceeded my expectations because it met them almost exactly. So much so, I felt as though I could have written Frozen 2‘s script myself. I definitely couldn’t have, but maybe that’s a little bit of that magic effect working on me.
The story pretty much follows the same pattern as the original. It starts with a throwback to when Anna and Elsa were young. We get to see their wholesome life before the accident with Elsa’s powers and their parents’ untimely deaths. Through this flashback the premise of the sequel is laid out, quite clumsily, through yet another framing device – their father, King Agnarr, telling a story of when he was a child. This felt like a forced, highly coincidental add-on to the series’ mythology, seeming entirely separate from the narrative of the first film. It is needed simply so that the filmmakers can make Elsa desperate to run away again, off into the unknown to discover new secrets. Stopped by Anna, she is convinced to let the rest of the gang join her – at least for a while. Elsa’s constant inquiry into who she is always tempts her into a state of isolation and, despite the best efforts of Anna and Olaf, she ventures on a solitary journey that is tainted with danger. None of this was particularly surprising; Frozen 2 falls into the same model as Frozen, except Elsa’s journey is far more treacherous and a lot less fun.
Characterisations are tweaked for most of the wintery bunch. Some are refreshing and effective, others not. From the lonely, powerful Queen that achieved Icon status, Elsa (Idina Menzel) is shown to be quite selfish in this sequel. Anna (Kristen Bell) is irritatingly persistent in positioning her sister as most important aspect of her life, which is a strange angle to follow as she comes across as controlling in parts. She disregards Kristoff’s feelings on many an occasion, berating him, making him feel guilty when his entire focus is on her happiness. Olaf, the comedic energy that could have lightened the film’s more downbeat character dynamics, has also reached the next stage of his emotional development. He spends much of the runtime philosophising and spurting out random facts.
The film is littered with coincidences that drive the narrative until the very end. It is brimming with moments that make you go “oh, of course that’s what’s happened, I definitely wasn’t expecting that.” It’s unsatisfying that this is how the tale unravels, but what is perhaps unforgivable is the lack of bops. You’re likely to leave the cinema not remembering a single track. The songs are all quite serious and heavy, a quality that affects even the more upbeat tunes that Olaf (Josh Gad) lends his friendly voice to. Weighed down by intense lyrics and equally uninteresting animation, it’s a largely disappointing soundtrack. This is excluding the peculiar oddity that is ‘Lost in the Woods’, Kristoff’s (Jonathan Groff) solo song that is performed as an ’80s-style power ballad, complete with a chorus of reindeers. This is a shining light in an otherwise gloomy forest.
Obviously the Frozen franchise has a fantastical basis, but there are scenes in this sequel that go beyond being far-fetched even within this universe, with a staggering amount of impermanent demises. There was a lot of potential to build on Frozen, yet the writing here takes the viewer on a spooky journey, surely heading for disaster, before popping the bubble and allowing for everything to end happily ever after against all logic. They can be applauded for trying something a bit more adult. Nonetheless, the lack of real inspiration leads to a pitiful okayness, making Frozen 2 an unnecessary cash in.
Frozen 2, directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, is distributed in the UK by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, certificate U.